Finally, men and women in all industries are starting to realize that something has to change. The elephant in the room everyone's been so busy ignoring is suddenly the main topic of conversation. And don't think for one second that MeToo is losing steam. 

Change is needed in different sectors. That's abundantly clear. The millions of women who spoke out against sexual predators, discrimination, abuse, or simply being treated in a condescending manner by misogynistic peers, have finally been heard. 

From Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose the voices of condemnation have become a chorus. And brands have got to listen. Their audience won't accept being served up the same whitewashed, stereotypical transmissions anymore. 

"Women have had enough of the objectification, abuse, mistreatment, and general misogynistic behavior they've endured for so long, and men are finally starting to get the message," said Kim Wetzel, Home Editor at Digital Trends. "Now it's time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and figure out ways to work toward gender parity."

But how do brands adapt their messaging to get it right in the MeToo era without alienating the rest of their audience? How do advertisers become more inclusive in an authentic way, without overkill? Here are a few tips.

Let Women Be Themselves

The mass media has long been criticized for perpetuating a one-dimensional and superficial behavioral repertoire of women--namely, that women are characterized and defined by their outward appearances. Of course, women have more depth than that.

Despite this, women are fed a message that outward beauty is the ultimate goal. Barbie, for example, has consistently grappled with criticism for unrealistic dimensions. The subtext of these perpetual messages? It's impossible to be good enough.

"For years, the definition of beauty was conjured up in a boardroom by a select few and sold to us, forcing us to fit into a feminine ideal that did not reflect us, but instead made us insecure and self-conscious. Now, that's changing," says Emmy-nominated producer and television host, Bianca de la Garza.

de la Garza, who has a history shaking up traditional narratives about women, hopes to catalyze a movement in beauty with her debut product, IN GLO WE TRUST, set to launch globally this summer. Messaging will be key in leveling the playing field for her startup in an industry dominated by a few, select companies. 

But that can be true in almost any industry. Social media, intentional and resonant messaging can be a game-changer.

Brands that have ditched the classic swimsuit model and recognize the beauty of real women are today's key players. In fact, brands like Dove have been doing well with that for a while, and it's time that others began to catch on. Let women be themselves. In fact, more than that, empower them to be themselves.

Stop Objectifying Them

Ad company Badger and Winters made a commitment to empower women and change the narrative some time ago in the wake of research about the objectification of women in advertising. Not only did they find that objectification actually hurts your brand and your business, but participants agreed that ads showing women looking happy and healthy, as if they would in real-life, actually made them feel better about themselves.

Moreover, objectification has an extremely negative effect on purchase intent. 43 percent of women feel compelled to buy a product, compared with 78 percent on a non-objectifying ad. So, listen to the research and stop doing it--your sales will increase. 

Break Away from Stereotypes

Swiss watch company Breitling caused a stir in all the wrong ways when it launched its "finest moments in the conquest of the skies" campaign. Revealing itself as woefully behind the times with its all-male catalog, including John Travolta, several male athletes and astronaut brothers, Mark and Scott Kelly.

Yet, even worse than total exclusion of females in the photos was the women the company had lined up at the event. In pilot caps, lipstick and stilettos, standing alongside the brand ambassadors.

Stereotyping and objectifying women will not go down well in these times. While the company is working hard to pivot its messaging after the debacle, you don't want to wait until you reach a point of damage control where you're faced with winning back lost customers.

Those that have relied on heavily perfect body messaging and traditional fashion beauty advertising will have to change their tune. Being more inclusive, empowering women rather than making them feel inadequate, and breaking stereotypes are some of the main ways forward.

And that is how--as a startup--you can steal market share from larger companies in any industry. Be faster than a slow moving ship. 

Published on: May 3, 2018